‘Border Land, Border Water’ Is A 150-Year History Of Construction On The US-Mexico Border

Author C.J. Alvarez views the border through the lens of construction projects that bind and divide the two countries.

By Laura Rice & Kristen CabreraJanuary 3, 2020 1:11 pm, , ,

In 2019, the U.S.-Mexico border topped the news, in part, because of the promise that President Donald Trump made to build a border wall. Though building the wall is a popular topic today, construction on the border is nothing new. C.J. Alvarez explores 150 years of border history in his new book “Border Land, Border Water: A History of Construction on the U.S.-Mexico Divide.” Alvarez is an assistant professor of Mexican American and Latina/o studies at the University of Texas at Austin.

The book looks at the history of the U.S.-Mexico border through the development of ports of entry, boundary markers, transportation networks, fences, barriers, surveillance infrastructure, dams and other river engineering projects. But some of these construction projects are complicated by the fact that in many places, the border is the Rio Grande River.

Alvarez says he grew up near the border, so it has always been a relevant topic for him.

“I’m a historian,” Alvarez says, “So from my point of view, I had to go back to when the U.S.-Mexico border was demarcated. Starting in 1848, and then continually becoming the site of more and more construction over the course of 150 years.”

In the book, Alvarez points out that when people talk about the border today, they’re talking about a place they don’t know, or have never visited.

“When people talk about the border, they’re not really talking about the places along the international divide,” Alvarez says. “They’re talking about immigration policy and immigration enforcement policy.”


Written by Morgan Kuehler.